Ansbro, Falcons blank Nottoway

WOODSTOCK – At this point of the softball postseason, pitching usually rises to the top. That’s why it’s a good thing that Central has an experienced battery.

That would be senior all-conference pitcher Bekah Ansbro and junior catcher Kylie Stottlemyer.

Ansbro (17-3) pitched her third shutout in the last four games as the Falcons (20-3) edged visiting Nottoway 1-0 on Wednesday night to capture a slot in the Group 2A state championship.

With the 2A East region semifinal victory over the Cougars, the Falcons will be a part of this kind of post-season story for the first time in the history of the school. They will host Page County at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional final.

“The last time we won 1-0 it was Kylie who got on base and we scored the winning run,” said Central coach Lisa Rhodes, whose team has not lost since May 20.

About 12 days ago, Madison County snapped Central’s then-seven-game winning streak by one run.

The Falcons got the better of the Mountaineers for the conference crown and then whipped Stuarts Draft 4-1 to gain entry into Wednesday’s game.

“You just have to watch the pitcher very closely,” said Stottlemyer, who walked twice. She was the only batter who got on base twice.

“She’s a really good pitcher, so everything with her was close,” added Stottlemyer.

The Falcons faced the servings of Hannah Hudson, who allowed two hits and struck out eight in a losing effort.

Stottlemyer walked in the decisive home half of the third. Alisia Turner came on to run for her and came home on a run-batted-in single for Autumn Shelton.

It was the combination of Stottlemyer and Turner who had scored the lone run against Madison on May 26 when Central found revenge for back-to-back losses to the Mountaineers in the regular season. That score was also 1-0.

Ansbro was a large part of the equation, too.

Going seven innings, Ansbro struck out 11 and allowed just one hit. Fans of both teams who lined the bleachers and sat along each fence were on their feet cheering when the senior pitcher worked the full-count before retiring the last Cougar.

“Bekah and I got together before the game and knew that any game now could be our last. We were both dialed in,” said Stottlemyer.

Ansbro, who’s headed to George Mason on a softball scholarship when her Falcons career is over, was aggressive against hitters early. She did not allow a baserunner until Casie Garrett singled in the fourth.

Ansbro dusted a dozen Cougars after that, striking out the last six visitors.

“She’s way invested,” Rhodes said. “These girls have been playing together since little league, and she’s been thinking about her senior year for a long time.”

“But never in my wildest dreams would I think we would get here,” said the pitcher.

“This is an example of how hard we’ve worked. Words can’t describe the way I feel right now,” said Stottlemyer.